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Ticona is supporting “Mission Icefox”, an expedition to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen by extreme athletes using an expedition sled, formed with unidirectional Celstran continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastics (CFR-TP).
Ticona say that their unidirectional Celstran CFR-TP tapes form the shell of the sled, or “Pulka” to combine high resilience under Arctic conditions with extremely low weight. The company state that their GUR ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE) used in the runners is shatterproof and scratch resistant even under extreme stresses while maintaining excellent glide characteristics.
According to Ticona, the Pulka is a less strenuous means to transport the equipment essential for survival over the 560 kilometre ski tour from Longyearbyen to Verlegenhuken at the northernmost point on Spitsbergen and back. The expedition is scheduled to cover 23 days and initially takes the two adventurers towards the North Pole. At subfreezing temperatures of – 45 degrees Celsius, meticulous planning is vital in preparing for the expedition.
“In the preparation it is important to have a plan B and a plan C in place for any potentially dangerous situations because you have to act fast in the field. Intensive familiarisation with the safety equipment to ensure reliable use even in the dark is just as important as mental preparation for any handicaps,” explained expedition participant, Mike Fuchs.
Fuch’s expedition partner Eric Folz is also aware of what lies ahead for man and material, “We are sure to reach our limits now and then. These may be physical limits or limits imposed by nature and its effects. That’s why we collaborated closely with the manufacturers Acapulka and Stükerjürgen in developing the concept of the sled. Low weight, high stiffness and strength Celstran CFR-TP from Ticona was tested under extreme conditions, as well as optimum impact strength at very low temperatures – down to -40 degrees Celsius – and are decisive to the success of our project. And of course good glide characteristics at all temperatures and on the vastly differing forms of snow and ice that occur.”
Ticona is supporting Mission Icefox with the objective of demonstrating the properties of unidirectional Celstran CFR-TP tapes for the production of extremely lightweight and resilient structural components. This aim has already been reached with the material know-how and sled construction experience of the development partner Acapulka and Stükerjürgen.
Alexander Bierwald, responsible for the development of the new Pulka at Acapulka commented, “We haven’t detected any material-specific weaknesses in the components in any of the preceding tests.” Folz adds, “The reliability of the sled is of vital significance to us. We can’t take the equipment essential for survival like satellite phone, gas cooker, gas, tent, clothing, sleeping bags, and an emergency sender flare gun with flares over 560 kilometres in 23 days without it. We’re talking about a total load of 130 kilogrammes. That’s why the Pulka underwent an exhaustive test program in advance and passed with flying colours. The conditions during the expedition could hardly be more difficult.”
These tests included glide characteristics as well as tip and track stability. The sled was pulled manually or using a kite. The kite was used to determined fatigue on loading and tensile loading at high speeds. The impact and notched impact strength was tested with horizontal and vertical impact tests. Pulka expert Bierwald summarises the positive results: “The material is highly resilient and has a potential weight saving in our application of up to 40 percent in the finished sled.”
The new Pulkas will be demonstrating their qualities in the Artic throughout April. Folz and Fuchs will cover between 7 and 45 kilometres per day depending on the ground and weather conditions. The two adventurers will post their experiences in their polymers-on-ice blog, which includes all the information about Mission Icefox.
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